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July 25, 2017

The Importance of Fighting Stiffness

By Michael Hughes

A couple weeks ago my family and I caravanned up to Tahoe for our annual family reunion. It’s a trip we always look forward to. Garwoods, fireworks, cold lake water, rafting down the Truckee river and late night family games. What’s not to love? Oh, that’s right, the 7.5 hour road trip. That’s the only downside. 

With a new baby on deck, my wife had been planning to tackle the road trip for weeks prior. Reading every blog on the subject, she finally felt equipped for any scenario that should arise. She had lists prepped in advance of everything she needed to pack and she took care of everything baby. My one responsibility, to take care of myself and navigate us north late one Thursday evening.  I thought I had it dialed in, but I forgot the one essential tool I hate to leave the house without: my foam roller.  *insert dark, foreboding music* 

Not two hours into the car ride and I felt desperate to stretch. I was arching my back, pumping my legs up and down, and basically trying to get some movement back into my legs and low back. I was aching and getting tighter by the minute. It was like my muscles were locking down with each mile we drove, going into hibernation. I was increasingly aware of the havoc inactivity was having on my body. I could feel my body breaking down. 

When FitBit released their initial step counting wrist monitor, a typical part time coach at Gymnazo could clock 14 miles in steps in a normal day. To put that into perspective, I believe at the time the daily goal for most of working America was 3 miles in steps, which typically meant that in addition to the day’s typical activities they would have to take a long walk to hit that mark.  Let’s face it, as movement professionals my team and I we are the exact opposite of most of our clientele. While most of our white collar working clients get up to move around and “take a break” we actually look forward to sitting down to “take a break.”

With this in mind, I have to admit when my body experiences long periods of inactivity it is not trained to be able to handle it, I struggle to sit still. This causes us some trouble when I want to pull the car over every 30 minutes to do the Gymnazo warm up, but each time I stop the car our 5 month old wakes up crying. My wife early into the trip warned me to only stop for gas or extreme cases of needing to use the bathroom. So picture me in the driver’s seat squirming, begging for back rubs and neck rubs and trying everything I can think of to move my aching body.  Welcome to the Hughes Family Tahoe Road Trip 2017.  

 It may not surprise you that my wife pokes fun at me during long car rides because as she says, “inactivity to you is as bad as a man flu.” For those curious about the pop culture reference, the man flu is a joke typically wives make about their husbands for over dramatizing their sickness in order to get more sympathy and assistance.  I continue to reject her reference to my “man flu” symptoms, but of course what husband wouldn’t? 

There is a reason for my response to inactivity (what she calls my “over reaction”). Today white-collar workers have to train for the amount of inactivity they put their body through. This lengthy inactivity is not normal and not something we were created for. But our bodies are adaptable, which is part of how we’ve been able to survive and evolve with nature.

Think back to kindergarten and grade school. Children are being trained to sit still for length amounts of time.  This can equate to being “good” children. This training for sitting starts at age 5, so by the time we enter the work force it should be no surprise that it’s not much of a shock to our bodies to sit for over 8 hours per day. In fact, Americans are sitting an average of 13 hours a day and sleeping an average of 8 hours resulting in a sedentary lifestyle of around 21 hours a day. 

When my wife isn’t poking fun at me, she makes the comment that when I complain about my low back or tight hamstrings that I’m finally feeling what my clients walk into the gym with on a daily basis. It’s truly awful and reminds me how passionate I am about warm ups, cool downs, stretching, mobility, and stability. 

If I only get 1 hour of your time, several days per week, I want it to count. I want it to reduce your pain. I want to fight inactivity with you. My team and I are so motivated to help you combat the effects of gravity, because it’s just too painful!  Life is too short to live in pain. While most of us have to be inactive to make a living, we can still choose movement daily. 

I may have the “man flu” when it comes to a tight and achy body and curse the day I forgot to bring my foam roller to Tahoe with me. But this experience makes me a better coach. It makes me empathetic and motivated to help each one of you fend off pain and aches that steal joy and fun from your life. Being socially active is a blessing and we want to empower each one of you to take full advantage of hard earned weekends and vacations. 

Thank you for trusting us each time you walk into the facility!  We are in this together!

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